Candidate for Wrightsville Beach mayor accuses sitting mayor of living in Wilmington

Candidate for Wrightsville Beach mayor accuses sitting mayor of living in Wilmington

NEW HANOVER, N.C. (WECT) - The New Hanover County Board of Elections voted to dismiss Wrightsville Beach mayoral candidate Greg Buscemi’s challenge to current Mayor Bill Blair’s voter registration at a hearing Monday night.

Buscemi initially claimed Blair, along with his wife and daughter, did not reside on Lumina Avenue in Wrightsville Beach, where the Blairs are registered to vote. The New Hanover County Board of Elections held a full hearing on the challenge Monday evening.

During the hearing, Mayor Blair said his family’s property in Wilmington, located in Landfall, is currently under contract and closed Monday. Blair said he has always considered his property in Wrightsville Beach his primary residence.

“I’m not running for re-election,” Blair said. “This is the kind of stuff when you have to go through something like this that makes good people not want to be in public office because you have to go through these kinds of things.”

Blair’s wife, who did not attend the hearing, was ordered by the board to provide an affidavit prior to the end of vote canvassing. The board, which dismissed the challenge pending the signed affidavit, allowed Bill Blair to testify on her behalf, despite Buscemi’s objection.

The board did, however, uphold the voter registration challenge regarding Blair’s daughter, who Blair admittedly said currently lives in Charlotte and forgot to cancel her registration.

Buscemi filed the challenge on Oct. 11, which was the voter challenge deadline. The New Hanover County Board of Elections held a preliminary hearing on the allegation on Oct. 22, finding sufficient evidence to warrant a full hearing.

Buscemi is running against current Wrightsville Beach Mayor Pro Tem Darryl Mills. Buscemi said he is challenging Blair because he believes the mayor continues to vote as a non-resident and will continue to serve on the town’s Board of Adjustment after he steps down as mayor.

“The fact that he’s been mayor for this long all while living across the drawbridge is appalling to me, and I’m not going to let him stick around as an illegitimate public official when he [has] no right to serve in such an influential position,” Buscemi said.

Blair was first elected to mayor in 2013 and is currently serving in his third two-year term. Blair announced this summer he would not be seeking re-election.

According to the New Hanover County Board of Elections Director, Rae Hunter-Havens, it can be difficult to establish a voter’s permanent residency when the person has multiple dwellings. Hunter-Havens said in her time on the board, she has not come across a voter challenge where that voter is also holding public office.

According to the North Carolina State Board of Elections, Buscemi can appeal the board’s decision, however, must appeal to the New Hanover County Superior Court within ten days.

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